Day Ten • 12 Sips of Brooklyn
HOW DID SODA GET TO BE PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1? There was a time when the soda fountain was the shining emblem of wholesomeness and American values. Wasn’t that the place where The Beaver could go and conduct his heart-to-heart talks with dad Ward Cleaver? But here in New Bloomberg City 2012, that talk might land Ward with a referral to child protective services. Or at least pointed looks from the local moral guardians.
Hard to be a soda entrepreneur these days, with City Hall intimating that your product ranks with cigarettes and racy magazines in the corruption of the kiddies. On the other side, the big guys, the Pepsis and Cokes of the world, have been laying down heavy fire in their war on limiting soda sizes. It’s frankly hard to know which side to root for in that struggle. May both sides lose.
Things look far rosier to Anton Nocito, whose dream was to open his own soda fountain but who along the way became a fabricator of artisanal soda syrups. P&H Soda Co. started about three years ago when Nocito sold sodas at the now-defunct Greenpoint Market. Customers and stores like The Brooklyn Kitchen expressed interest in the syrups, so Nocito obliged. Then he taught classes on making syrups and landed on the Martha Stewart Show teaching Martha herself to make Cream Soda. In that appearance, he certainly doesn’t come across like a corrupter of youth.
P&H syrups are all natural and come in exotic flavors like Lovage, Hibiscus and the old stand-by Ginger. From the humble start in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the product is now available in stores across the country, including in Georgia, Massachusetts and California, as well as on menus in restaurants and bars as far afield as Florida and Minnesota. A list of locations is available on the P&H Soda Co web site.
Locally, Nocito likes to get out to venues like the New Amsterdam Market to share special fabrications that can’t be bottled “because we don’t use preservatives, so the flavor tends to fade too quickly.”
Small-batch soda is getting to be an active market in Brooklyn, with Brooklyn Soda Works and Q Drinks making their own products focused on natural ingredients. Brooklyn Artisan will follow all the developments with interest.
As for his original dream, Nocito remains steadfast: He wants to “open a soda fountain with all natural sodas and a menu consisting of locally sourced ingredients. The manufacturing of the syrups definitely sent us in another direction and we’re currently trying to get back on track with our original goal.”
With any luck, The Beaver will be there for more heart-to-hearts, and not have to sneak around with back-alley natural sodas.
Photograph (top) by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974.